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An Interview With… Belmond

Posted by Yasmin Vaughan-Williams on 4th October 2019

Written by: Yasmin Vaughan-Williams

We recently spoke to Perrine Chapelain, Director of Global Sales, Meetings and Incentives at Belmond, to get an exclusive look behind the scenes at the luxury brand and their unique 5* destinations…

Tell us a little bit about your role and the Belmond brand

James B. Sherwood, founder of shipping company Sea Containers, started Belmond as a personal journey. It all began when he received the keys to the legendary Belmond Hotel Cipriani in Venice from his very dear friend Giuseppe Cipriani back in 1976. A year later, he began collecting the carriages of the fabled Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, which launched in 1982 to whisk intrepid travellers to La Serenissima in style. For over 40 years, we have followed his pioneering spirit and passion for authenticity to create and uncover some of the world’s greatest travel adventures. Today, our collection includes 47 one-of-a-kind hotels, trains, river cruises and safari lodges in stunning destinations across the globe. Each has an incredible story to tell. Belmond joined LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet-Hennessy) in April 2019, reinforcing our place among the international leaders in luxury.

I often say that my role is to be a storyteller, an advisor and a facilitator. I thrive on inspiring our clients with our unique experiences and working closely with them and our on-property teams to create exceptional and memorable events. It’s incredible to see what comes out of an initial conversation and how we can work on translating it into a creative concept and see it become this beautiful brand experience; there is something so amazingly rewarding about it.

Can you share a couple of key interesting facts about Belmond – what sets you apart from other hotels?

Belmond has so many wonderful stories to tell. Our rich heritage makes many of our hotels and train journeys part of history with a capital H. Our details express a unique art of living. A level of luxury that captures the spirit of a place and its culture and at the same time embraces our link to nature. It’s the marquetry on the Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express and also our incredible gardens around the world. There is an art in everything we do.

It’s also about our pioneering spirit — we were the first to create authentic escapes in Peru and Myanmar. We are in places rich in nature, culture and wellbeing. Places that cherish sensory, emotional and aesthetic pleasures.

It’s all about unique and genuine moments.

We couldn’t agree more! What do you love most about being a part of the Belmond brand?

I know how this is going to sound but Belmond really is a family. I have never experienced before a company where genuine connections are everywhere. You can really feel the passion for the brand and its story at every level of the organisation and this is what connects us all together so much. Our people are distinctly characterful and we celebrate our incredible hosts and our uniqueness by embracing our quirkiness and originality.

Belmond is also deeply respectful of its communities and their surroundings. We aim to tread lightly and indeed make a positive contribution to the many destinations where we operate. We are also strongly aware of our responsibility towards natural resources and the environment, especially at locations close to World Heritage Sites. This is one the main reasons we have been able to operate properties in unique locations like the National Park of Iguassu Falls or the Machu Picchu Citadel for many years.

Any top tips for readers when it comes to planning an event at one of your hotels/destinations?

Come with an open mind and don’t be afraid to ask. Our teams understand that there is no set formula to creating a successful event – we want our clients to challenge us and utilize the many personal touches that we can deliver. From chartering one of our luxury trains for a car launch to using some of our unusual spaces for a meeting, we will work with you to deliver a memorable experience and create the optimal environment for engagement.

What are some of Belmond’s most unique experiences available to visitors?

More than unique, I would describe our experiences as authentic and meaningful. Some of my favourites are:

The Forest Experience in Iguassu, Brazil: Gather around a campfire in the rainforest at dusk with indigenous Guarani-Mbya. Take part in an authentic welcome ritual, feast on traditional cuisine and enact a tobacco ceremony with tribal elders. Funds raised from the experience go towards projects that include building a new well, improving waste disposal and enhancing the Tupi-Guarani’s schools.

The Circus Dinner Experience in Siem Reap, Cambodia: Witness a dazzling show at Phare—the Cambodian Circus. Emotive live music, passionate performance and deeply resonant dance numbers bring to life unique and untold poignant Cambodian stories. Phare is not just a platform to showcase Cambodia’s talented young artists—it is a thriving social initiative and a product of the inspiring Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS) association, where all the performers learn their skills. The circus is founded on three social missions; to provide gainful employment to Cambodian youth from difficult social or economic backgrounds, to sustain and support the PPS school, and to push forward the rebirth of Cambodian modern art.

Wow, the Forest Experience in Brazil sounds incredible! Can you share an insight as to what a luxury two-day programme looks like at one of your hotels/destinations?

DAY 1

Morning flight to Pisa Airport

Transfer to the Chianti region by vintage Fiat 500

Arrival at Belmond Castello di Casole

Wine Tasting

With more than 100 acres of vineyards, Belmond Castello di Casole is made for wine lovers. We offer frequent wine tours and events, and an exquisite estate-grown red wine blend. Our expert sommelier is always at hand to suggest food and wine pairings. Our wine heritage is proudly honoured at Tosca, where hundreds of vintages from leading Tuscan wineries are displayed on the wall.

Lunch at Cip’s by Cipriani

Truffle Hunting on the estate

Tuscany is home to the rarest and finest truffles on earth. Head out with your expert guide and experienced Lagotto Romagnolo dogs to uncover these elusive tubers.

Truffle Experience at the Essere Spa

Forest Dinner

Enter the world of fairytales with an enchanted picnic in the heart of our ancient forest. Our floating table awaits in a secluded glade, lit with a grand candelabra and hundreds of twinkling lights. Savour a delicious selection of canapés and aperitifs as the moon rises high above the castle. Enjoy an irresistible four-course truffle-inspired dinner created by Chef Daniele Sera.

Overnight at Belmond Castello di Casole

DAY 2

Hot air ballooning

Take to the skies and enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the glorious countryside on an aerial adventure.

Back to the hotel for breakfast

Transfer to Siena for full day city tour (ideal during the Palio de Siena)

Transfer back to the hotel and free time to relax and enjoy the hotel’s facilities

Gala Dinner by the infinity pool overlooking the property’s vineyards

Overnight stay at Belmond Castello di Casole

DAY 3

Breakfast and departures

Do you have any exciting developments or new venues on the horizon that we can share with our readers?

We opened three new properties in the last 18 months:

Belmond Castello di Casole in Tuscany, May 2018: Belmond Castello di Casole is one of those magical places where time stands still. The 39 suite-only hotel is spread across 4,200 acres of vineyards and olive groves. This 10th-century estate located between Florence and Sienna is the perfect place to experience the wonders of rural Italy.

Belmond Cap Juluca in Anguilla, December 2018: a chic-island hideaway on the serene shores of Anguilla, Belmond Cap Juluca is the first resort within the Belmond global portfolio to be re-imagined under the brand’s new art direction. Acquired by Belmond in May 2017, the property underwent a $121 million (for 108 keys) top-to-toe renovation and redesign over 18 months. The beautiful new design pays homage to the surrounding landscape and Anguillan heritage; blending the old-world charms of Marco Polo’s travels with new world comforts.

Belmond Cadogan Hotel in London, February 2019: the hotel re-opened its doors following a multi-million-pound historic renovation over four and a half years. With a storied past full of glamour, intrigue and at times, scandal, Belmond Cadogan Hotel is a London legend reborn. The hotel celebrates British culture, design and quirky eccentricity and its 54 rooms and suites provide a stylish retreat in the heart of Chelsea. Chef Patron Adam Handling, who has just been named Chef of the Year at the Food & Travel Readers Awards 2019, brings his energetic passion for traditional British cuisine with a modern twist and places sustainability and zero waste at the core of his philosophy.

Under the new LVMH ownership, Belmond will continue to expend its global portfolio and the future looks very bright, so watch this space!

Perrine Chapelain
Director of Global Sales, Meetings and Incentives 

Belmond

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